For weeks we have been hearing the educated and the politicians and the activists speak of the dent in the economy that is anticipated due to the high cost of the arbitration award. Today, the PUP painted a dismal picture of Belize’s economic future.
“Since 2009 the Belizean people have not seen their quality of life improve. The service of BTL has gotten worse and the cost of electricity has increased. We still have to find $557 million to pay the BTL debt. Where will that money come from. If it is not coming from BTL is he going to raise taxes? The Prime Minister did not say no to new or increases taxes on Love Fm this morning, is he going to cut government expenses by retrenching government people? Only Prime Minister Barrow and his closest advisors know how the punishment will be doled out on the Belizean people. Even before the Miami sell out with BTL the IMF in their article 4 first report basically told the Prime Minister that he needs to cut expenses, that the revenues are not matching what he is spending and the only way that he can do that is by increasing taxes; they recommended that GST must go up to 15%, they recommended of every five persons that are either fired or stop working with the government that they can only hire one person in return. I know for a fact that the Prime Minister has a hiring freeze in government and thirdly they also mentioned that if this is not working that they will have to retrench government workers.”
“Reporter”: So it’s just a matter of time?
John Briceno: “That is pretty much what the Prime Minister admitted because if he knew that he was not going to raise taxes he would have been very clear you know how he likes to boast, he did not say that, he did not say no to raising taxes. Actually he has been doing this from the beginning of this financial year when he increased fuel taxes by $50 million and it continues to go up almost every month the price of fuel continues to go up and that is hurting the productive sector, the very sector that we need to get out of this financial mess that teh UDP has created.”
Prime Minister Barrow has conceded that there are challenges and that the BTL award would not be the trigger for increased taxes.
“If taxes increase it won’t be because of this. I cannot pretend that this just a blip on the radar screen, it does help to underline difficulties we were already facing, difficulties that have to do principally with the super bond which is costing us $26 million USD per year in servicing, that goes up again next year with the step up in interest rate to something like $36 million and then in 2019 amortization starts so that by the time you hit 2020 I will be gone from government but I have a duty to try to leave things better than I found them and so I have to be especially concerned so you look at any IMF report and even the last one and they are already saying that there has got to be fiscal consolidation. There is the fact that we suffered from the reduction in oil prices plus the reduction in production in terms of BNE so that has put a hurt on us in terms of inflows but in terms particularly in terms of foreign exchange. There is the fact that our productive sector is not doing as well as it should and that is part of the variables of commodities.”